• Gaga Ball Is A Hit
    At Elementary Schools

    Posted by Josh Flory on 11/1/2018

    What do you get when you combine a wooden octagon, a soccer-sized ball and a couple of dozen schoolkids?

    The answer is Gaga ball, a schoolyard sport that is growing in popularity and making its mark on KCS elementary schools.

    According to the New York Times, Gaga ball is believed to have originated in Israel. The game has become popular at local schools including Norwood Elementary, which got its first pit this year with an assist from home-improvement chain Lowe’s.

    Gaga is similar to dodgeball, with players being eliminated if they’re struck by the ball. But Gaga prohibits any strikes above the waist and requires attacking players to hit the ball with their hand, rather than throw it at opponents.

    On a recent morning at Norwood, student enthusiasm for the game was off the charts, with cheering players gathered around the sides of the pit as the field was slowly whittled down to a single winner.

    Fourth-grader Kory Ball said the game is more fun than dodgeball because hits above the waist don’t count, which means players stay in the game longer. He also said it helps to play Fortnite, because you learn how to hit the ball in advance of targets who are moving.

    As for his overall strategy, the fourth-grader said, “Pretty much just stand around while the whole class battles it out. When there’s three people left, go out to the side and let them … battle it out and (then) get the winner.”

    Josh Van Pelt, a physical education teacher at Norwood, said Gaga is safer than dodgeball, but that kids respond to the elimination element and end up being more active than they realize.

    The new pit was a project of the Great Schools Partnership, a non-profit organization that aims to connect Knox County schools with private-sector resources to support education.

    Jordan Frye, the Partnership’s community school site coordinator at Norwood, said the new pit was funded by Lowe’s and built in a single day by volunteers from the home-improvement chain.

    “It’s a pretty simple project that can have a long-lasting impact,” Frye said.

    Businesses or individuals that would like to participate in similar projects can contact the Partnership at (865) 215-4501.

    Fourth-grader Kory Ball tries to avoid getting hit during a game of gaga ball on Oct. 24, 2018.
    Fourth-grader Kory Ball tries to avoid getting hit during a game of gaga ball on Oct. 24, 2018.